Summer Course in Trier: “Understanding the Bible from the Liturgy”

Catholic University of America and the Theologische Fakultät Trier announced a summer program of interest to graduate students of liturgy – flyer here.

● 3-credit course “Understanding the Bible from the Liturgy” in Trier (in English; see the course description below)
● Visit to the Archive and Library of the German Liturgical Institute: A glimpse behind the liturgical reform after Vatican II (in reference to the course).
● Use research opportunities at the theological libraries in Trier, esp. at the Library of the German Liturgical Institute. It is one of the best international libraries for liturgical studies in the world (including sacred art and music; in various languages, esp. German, English, and French; 75,000 volumes and 250 journals).

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DDW confirms new Lectionary for Great Britain

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has announced that “the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has confirmed the approval by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales for the new Lectionary.” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland will also share this new edition of the Lectionary for Mass.

Their new Lectionary is based on the English Standard Version of the Bible – Catholic Edition and will use the Psalm translation from the e Abbey Psalms and Canticles.  In this sense the Lectionary will be similar to the edition recently published in India. The new British edition of the Lectionary will be published by the Catholic Truth Society (CTS) and is approved for use from Advent 2024.

As a final note, and forgive me for being pedantic, but allow me to offer a correction to the press release, the new ESV edition of the Lectionary is approved for Great Britain but not the “British Isles.” In other words, it is approved for the regions served by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. However, it is not approved for use in Ireland, which is served by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Writing our Lives in the Margins: Liturgical Texts & the Life of Faith

Last week, for the feast of St. Thomas More, I kept an image of his prayer-book close at hand. More took this book with him in 1534 to the Tower of London, where he was executed for treason a year later. In the margins of this prayer-book, Thomas More hand-wrote his own reflections, notes, and prayers. It is as close as one can get to Thomas More’s lived life and prayed faith.

What is usually referred to as Thomas More’s prayer-book is in reality two books bound together, both of them liturgical: a printed Book of Hours and a Latin Psalter. Whether these two were already bound together when Thomas More took them to the Tower with him is unclear but what is clear is that within these liturgical books, Thomas More wrote his own prayer-life, scribbling notes in the margins of various psalms, and — most famously — a long prayer in the margins beginning at the Office of Prime. The prayer stretches across the following pages and pages. Many things are remarkable about these texts and what Thomas More prayed about and for (and against!). What moves me, not least as a scholar of liturgy, is how he wrote his life into the liturgical texts wherever they left room for that. This prayer-book, in other words, witnesses not only to how Thomas More prayed with a given liturgical text, but also beyond it. And he did so by writing in the margins, seeking room for his own words as he turned page after page to identify blank spaces (Thomas More was not alone in this but followed the pious practice of many late medieval believers, as Eamon Duffy has shown).

That particular practice – namely, the fusion of printed liturgical texts and a lived faith scribbled around these texts – has something to say to us today. After all, we ourselves are not only witnesses of this fusion taking place on the pages of St. Thomas More’s prayer-book but co-creators of this fusion in the here and now, as we chart our own path through a lived life of faith, praying with the liturgy, and beyond it, and sometimes against it (at least that is true in my case, as a woman and a theologian in the twenty-first century).

I think of this fusion when I cycle to Mass past the building that now houses the prayer-book of St. Thomas More, namely Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. I am glad to say that I have been able to see and hold and study this book on a number of occasions. So, I wave to St. Thomas More’s prayer-book in its temperature-controlled vault of the library as I cycle past. I tell it that I honor it as a precious relic of someone who spoke truth to power and paid with his life for obedience to God rather than to Empire, even if Yale’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library wouldn’t know to catalogue the book as such. At least, the prayer-book of St. Thomas More now lives in close proximity to a church named after the saint who prayed with and beyond this book. As I cycle on to that church, I am grateful for the reminder that the liturgy and my own lived life of faith fuse in ever new — and never simple — ways.


February 2: On reaching “that light which never fails”

My thoughts usually turn to the prophet Anna – mentioned at the presentation of the Lord in the Temple as told in Luke 2 – on this day in the liturgical calendar. I typically lament that the Scriptural witness and the tradition on which it is built do not let Anna speak for herself. Only Simeon is given words, beautiful words. But today, a much more recent silencing disturbs my memory of Anna, and of Simeon too, and of the proclamation of God’s light, for all to see. That recent silencing is the brutal taking of the life of Tyre Nichols.

In Luke 2, the old prophet Simeon is clear-eyed about what encountering the infant Jesus meant for him: His life’s mysterious imperative, to see and witness to the light, had been fulfilled. God now let him depart this world in peace.

Fast forward 2,000 years, to January 7, 2023, and Tyre Nichols only wanted to get home, home to his mother, when abysmal violence met him. How on earth to think this atrocity together with the feast of Candlemas? I do not know. But I do know that when candles were (and are) blessed on Candlemas this includes candles to light the way of those who will die in the coming year. And surely, nobody assumes that these candles will only burn during hours of peaceful deaths. Deep in my heart, I believe that if God’s light were not stronger than all the depth of human iniquity that can surround people passing from this world to the next, it would not be worth blessing candles today. So, I place my hope in what the prayer for the blessing of candles says: that even through a violent dying, one can “reach that light which never fails.”

ESV Catholic Edition not Catholic enough?

In 2019 the Augustine Institute in Colorado published the English Standard Version Catholic Edition.  This is a Catholic edition of the popular Evangelical Protestant translation that is owned by Crossway publishing house.

This translation is closely related to the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible.  But it is revised so that the new edition “emphasizes ‘word-for-word’ accuracy, literary excellence, and depth of meaning.” The Catholic Edition was prepared under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India which released a new edition of the Lectionary for Mass based on the ESV in 2020.

At the moment, the Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales and of Scotland are in the process of editing their own new edition of the Lectionary for Mass based on the ESV. I believe that this edition is almost ready for publication.

I have nothing against the ESV per se. I have actually had a copy of the translation on my bookshelf since well before the Catholic edition was published. I believe that everyone can benefit from exposure to a variety of Bible translations and the ESV has a definite place in such study. But my views are on record, where I explain my opinion that that ESV is not the best choice for a new Lectionary in countries that are currently using the Jerusalem Bible In their Lectionary.

In the United States the ESV Catholic Edition has become quite popular with many Catholics.  However, there is very little chance that it will be adopted for liturgical use in the US.  It also is in a certain competition with the Ignatius Press edition of the RSV, which was used for the very successful Bible in a Year Podcast and the edition of the  NRSV that Bishop Robert Barron is publishing as the Word on Fire Bible.

Late last year the Augustine Institute published Bible Translation & the Making of the ESV Catholic Edition by Dr. Mark Giszczak, Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture at the Augustine Institute Graduate School of Theology. Here he explains the case for the ESV Catholic Edition. He gave an interview on his book on the Catholic Bible Talk blog. This was a very popular post that generated 67 comments.  Yet a few weeks later Catholic Bible Talk posted the revelation that the Augustine Institute was in the process of producing their own new translation of the Bible, the Catholic Standard Version. This led to consternation on the blog, and the post has so far generated 124 comments. Since then, two additional posts on the new CSV have been published there, and the new translation has passed from rumor to fact with the publication of some photos of the Gospel of Matthew, the first volume of the new translation shortly to be published by the Augustine Institute.

If PrayTell readers have time and interest, I would suggest that they spend a few minutes reading this series of posts on the Catholic Bible Talk blog and, more importantly, the many comments that they have generated. I find them to be a great insight as to where many Catholics who care about the Bible are. Some are excited about the new translation, others feel that the Augustine Institute have abandoned the whole ESV project, while others express the opinion that the ESV was not Catholic enough to start with. In any case, without the benefit of any special insight on the matter, it does seem strange to me that a publishing house that has so recently invested so much time and energy into producing a new Catholic edition of the Bible as its sole US publisher, would decide to produce a totally new translation that will be in direct competition with the earlier edition.

I doubt any of this will have the slightest affect on the adoption of the ESV for liturgical use in India and Great Britain. But the discussions illustrate the myriad of factors and opinions in the debate as to which is the best Bible translation to use in Roman Catholic liturgy in English speaking areas.


Cover image: Alex Leung – English-Greek Interlinear New Testament: ESV available under a Creative Commons license